Creativity in Your Eighties
Clare Thorbes provides tips on the creative life.
Posted March 1, 2021 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma
You do not need to stop creating because you’ve gotten older. Yes, you may need to make changes: Matisse had to move from painting to cut-out collages because of arthritis and, as a result, created some of his most memorable works. So, while you may need to make changes and accommodate your new circumstances, you do not ever need to stop creating.
Here are creativity coach Clare Thorbes’ eight tips for maintaining your creativity as you age.
Clare Thorbes Explains:
Creativity clients as young as 40 have asked me, “Am I too old to create?” I encourage them to imagine what it might be like to arrive in their 80s after decades of devotion to their chosen art form. How skilled and confident might they be? I ask them to notice how they feel on the days they create. On the days they don’t, does their life seem a little less satisfying?
These eight tips will help you say a resounding yes! to your creativity, even as you embrace the realities of aging:
1. Find or build your tribe. Your group of like-minded souls understands your need to create, encourages you, and gives you honest and helpful feedback. Your supporters are also a bulwark against the psychological damage inflicted by people who do believe you’re too old to create.
2. Take charge of your health. If you have mobility or other physical issues, accommodate them, but continue to create. Change your working position, alter the length and frequency of your sessions, change your medium, or move from one art form to another—whatever makes sense for your changing circumstances.
3. Career success can happen at any age, as many of my clients can attest. Ask yourself why you create. Is it because it fills you with joy and gives you purpose? Keeping that vocation in mind will help you strive for greatness while letting go of expectations.
4. Create regularly to embed the habit of creating right down into your bones. No block of daily time is too short to stay connected with your creativity.
5. Keep your current and future projects in your thoughts all day, like a background hum. That keeps them alive! It also sustains you emotionally and psychologically and brings you back to your creativity after a forced interruption.
6. Stay curious, and don’t lose yourself in comparisons with other artists. You’re on your own path, and it is like no one else’s.
7. Periodically return to what Natalie Goldberg calls "beginner’s mind." This could involve refining the basics, taking a course, or exploring other creative disciplines. Your work will be deepened and enriched as a result.
8. Finally, as you age, celebrate the richness you bring to your life’s work: the fingers that can still hold a brush or an instrument; and the mind that can observe, distill experience, and find poetry in words, motion, or music.
In his 80s, Nova Scotia visual artist Charles Coupar completed 15 pastel still lifes for a solo exhibition and spent over an hour at his opening night, chatting with fans and new admirers.
American poet, novelist, and journal writer May Sarton continued to write into her 80s. She retained her independence and devotion to creativity until the end, even dictating her journal into a tape recorder after suffering a stroke.
Coupar, Sarton, and countless other artists, poets, musicians, and performers can inspire you to continue taking creative risks and to steadily build your life’s work. If you nurture it, creativity will remain a brightly burning flame inside you, calling on you to make something wonderful—no matter what your age.
Clare Thorbes is a certified creativity coach and visual artist, who returned to her love of singing jazz in her 60s.
You can connect with Thorbes at clarethorbescreativity